“…I always told my boys in their younger days, ‘if you keep running a red light because you can, or no one is watching, or there are no cars in sight, after a while you will stop looking out, and one day there will be a car that you will not see coming’”.
There can be no better way to describe the current ordeal of Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State in the hands of the Directorate of State Security (DSS) than those memorable words that I lifted (with her kind permission of course) from the contribution recently made by Mrs Fatima Wali-Abdurrahman on a listserv–even though she was writing about another public official. Having gotten away with too many things, Governor Fayose apparently believes he is so invincible that he can afford to run the red light at any time without consequences. Well, he must know by now that there are sometimes consequences for bad behaviour.
In the weeks preceding the presidential election last year, Fayose threw caution to the wind. Not only did he assail, almost on a daily basis, the character of the then opposition presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, Fayose also played all manner of divisive cards, including religion and ethnicity. In January last year, for instance, he sponsored a front page advert in a national newspaper where he said leaders from a particular section of the country usually die in office; and so for that “reason”, Nigerians should not vote for Buhari who, by his warped reasoning, would soon die. While the advert caused national uproar, Fayose was unrelenting, apparently because of the misguided notion that an incumbent president could never be defeated in Nigeria.
Indeed, on 22 February 2015, a month to the presidential election, Fayose issued another of his numerous anti-Buhari statements where he declared categorically that “Buhari will never be Nigeria’s President.” Here he goes: “I wish they can see spiritually what I am talking about that Buhari, despite the hullabaloo, will never be president. I predicted my return as Ekiti State Governor and I am saying it again that Buhari will never rule Nigeria again…”
After raving about how he had become “Prophet Elijah” of Nigeria, Fayose, who was fixated on the health of Buhari, continued: “Without doubt, it is obvious that this cabal in the APC is trying so hard to deceive Nigerians on Buhari’s health status. That’s the reason they have been using photo-shopped pictures to defend their lies on Buhari’s UK trip…However, I want to disappoint this selfish cabal. Buhari is only raising their hope and that hope will be dashed.”
Despite my warning on this page a few weeks earlier (16 October, 2014) in a piece titled “A word for Ayo Fayose”, that the governor should exercise caution, Fayose remained reckless as he harassed Buhari ceaselessly. Unfortunately for him, when the chips were down, to borrow a famous cliché, it was his preferred candidate, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, whose hopes were dashed by the Nigerian electorate.
Ordinarily, you would expect any rational politician in Fayose’s position to be sober but then the governor apparently has no capacity for introspection and continued his personal attacks on the president. That is the genesis of the current problem in Ekiti State. However, while I have no sympathy for Fayose as he receives his comeuppance from the federal authorities, one should also be worried about a glaring misuse of power that could come back to haunt all of us.
On Friday, 3rd March, no fewer than ten DSS operatives reportedly invaded the Ekiti State House of Assembly complex, shooting sporadically and causing mayhem before eventually abducting four of the legislators. Up till today, no reason has been given for such brigandage. But following the allegation that one of the lawmakers, Hon. Afolabi Akanni, had died in custody, the DSS last week hastily arranged a press conference where the distraught lawmaker was presented in nightdress and bathroom slippers. The DSS also released a statement that spoke volumes:
“You may have been aware of the recent situation in Ekiti State in which the DSS was accused of abducting of the State’s Assembly Legislators. The fact is that one of the members of the Assembly, Hon. Akanni AFOLABI was duly invited by the Service over some serious breaches bordering on State security and for which he has some explanations to make. These breaches fall under the purview of the DSS to investigate.
“This Press Conference has become necessary in order to debunk a rumour which is being dangerously spread in Ekiti State by some mischief makers to the effect that Hon. AFOLABI has died in custody. Nigerians and Ekiti people in particular are convinced to see that AFOLABI is hale and hearty as he is being presented to the Press today.
“The DSS will therefore warn all those who have planned to make a meat out of this to desist from it and stir clear from trouble as the Service will not hesitate to bring the full weight of the law against any one or persons that may engage in violent actions of any kind. In a similar vein, all law abiding Ekiti residents should go about their normal businesses as the Service assures them of full protection by security agencies.”
I honestly fail to understand the meaning of such a badly-written statement but pertinent questions remain: Why would DSS invade a House of Assembly of a state in a democracy? Why subject Hon Afolabi to the indignity of “arraigning” him not before a competent court of law but rather before a battery of reporters? Are we now in a military regime such that DSS operatives can act above the law and Nigerians would be blackmailed into silence?
After 18 days in detention, Afolabi was released on Tuesday and he is now at an Abuja hospital receiving treatment. Since the lawmaker has said he was never told by the DSS the reason for his incarceration, it is safe to conclude that he may just have suffered a collateral damage for the sins of his governor. That precisely is why President Buhari and his handlers should be concerned, especially considering that it is now becoming very common to hear the phrase “we are back to 1984”.
While the question often left hanging is “which 1984?”, the fact also remains that whether it is Buhari’s first coming as Head of State (the only full calendar year he governed was 1984 with all the human rights abuses as you would expect in a military government) or it is a reference to the plot in the novel by the same title, 1984, written by George Orwell, this administration should be concerned that its credibility is being gradually eroded by some of its actions and inactions.
For those who still can remember, in the year 1984, things were really hard for many Nigerians after the madness of the Second Republic civilian era. Although Buhari inherited a mess, as he has also done now, his response to some of the challenges only compounded the situation. And his human rights record was abysmal, to put it mildly. Now, many people are drawing interesting parallels between the past and the present and the situation is not helped by the administration seeming pursuit of some policy choices that are almost akin to digging while already in a very deep hole.
There are also those who see in what is happening in Nigeria today in the fictional account, “Nineteen Eighty-Four” published in 1949 by Orwell, a few months before he died of tuberculosis. In a typical Orwellian fashion, the author had deployed allegories to warn on the dangers posed by a totalitarian regime which by its very nature serves only those at the top (Inner Party) while exploiting those at the bottom (Proles) by using its power and control (Outer Party) to strike fear into the people as a tool to divide and conquer.
With the DSS fast acquiring the notorious reputation of the “Big Brother” under the current dispensation, I believe President Buhari must intervene to restore a measure of sanity. At a time of grave national security, politicising the institution that should help in keeping all of us safe can only be counter-productive. And to the extent that the challenge before the nation is enormous, for the president to succeed, he will need to have the people by his side. Yet he cannot do that if Nigerians are made to believe that state power is being used to fight his enemies.
The real test of whether President Buhari has truly imbibed the values of democracy includes his ability to inhabit the same universe with those who do not necessarily agree with him. Clearly, Fayose is one of them and whatever one may say about the governor’s method, he has remained consistent in proffering views and perspectives that are divergent and even in outright opposition to the policies and positions held by this administration. In expressing those views, Fayose is merely exercising his legitimate rights within a democratic space.
Therefore, the onus is on the president and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) either to ignore Fayose or challenge his contentions with superior arguments and facts. To unleash the federal might on the Ekiti State Government is a disservice to democracy and a negative for this administration. Even if there were infractions, as claimed by the DSS, there is no evidence that the due processes of the law have been explored let alone exhausted. And in the absence of such a course of action, the public is left with the only conclusion that the security invasion of Ekiti State government are acts of political vendetta by agencies of government intent on misrepresenting or even embarrassing the president on matters of democratic rights and freedoms. This is a dangerous precedent.
All said, I also have a word for the Governor of Ekiti State. I hope he can quickly get a copy of Mario Puzo’s Magnus Opus, “The Godfather” to read about a certain notorious character called Luca Brasi. Perhaps this bit may help: “There are men in this world who go about demanding to be killed. They argue in gambling games; they jump out of their cars in a rage if someone as much as scratches their fender. These people wander through the streets calling out ‘kill me, kill me’. Luca Brasi was such a man…”
At the end, Luca Brasi got his wish. Fayose should learn to be wise!
by Olusegun Adeniyi for THISDAY